The final show for the 25th Season of the Chemainus Theatre Festival will be opening to audiences on November 17th. Rehearsals started this week and the energy was high as the cast read through the script for the first time. Everyone in attendance was bopping along to familiar tunes of the mid-1980s and, of course, a few Christmas classics.

You may have met the Cornwall family in 2011 when they spent Christmas in the Country at the Chemainus Theatre. They are back on stage again thanks to popular demand. This year the Cornwalls are on their way to Cancun on an all-inclusive holiday. Whether or not you saw the first Cornwalls’ Christmas show, you will enjoy these vibrant characters, a hilarious storyline, and given the retro setting, there is plenty of big hair, jelly shoes and neon prints to behold. One of the co-writers Nicolle Nattrass tells us that this was a special play for her to write, “Christmas is such a special time of the year and we wanted to create an original Christmas show that depicted a well-rounded, quirky family that goes through what so many of us try to create at Christmas – the perfect family Christmas”.

The community of Chemainus is full of local artistic talent and the Chemainus Theatre Festival capitalizes on this talent whenever we can. For this show, our in-house writers Nicolle Nattrass and Chemainus Theatre Festival Artistic Director Mark DuMez weave for you a tale of a loving family doing their best with challenging (and hysterical) circumstances. Thank you to Nicolle and Mark for having a conversation with our own Michelle Vogelgesang about how audience members will relate to this story if they have ever experienced the highs and lows of Christmas, an all-inclusive getaway, or, you know, family!

What are three words you would use to describe their family dynamic?

Nicolle: Funny, Quirky and perfectly imperfect.

Mark: Challenging, loving, all-in.

Are the family members modeled after people you have met (not naming names)?

Nicolle: Not specific people but with the spirit of capturing everyday family dynamics through family members- strengths, faults and quirks.

Mark: Agreed – they are created from a composite of imagination, other people and my own personal quirks. 

Do the Cornwalls have a lesson for the audience, or are we enjoying their antics for pure entertainment?

Nicolle: Both. Entertaining, funny and moving. Love is the lesson, love within families, for each other through the good times, unfortunate times and in this case, an All Inclusive Family VACATION at Christmas which has plenty of ups and downs but in the end the Cornwalls will have created new family traditions.

Mark: Any family comedy, even a wacky one, hopefully reflects a bit of our own life to us.  Through the piece, we learn to love our imperfections and turn our challenges into personal and relational triumphs – even through a goofy lens.

Will the family ever want to vacation together again?

Nicolle: YES! The Family that travels on an All-Inclusive together, stays together!

Mark: Probably? 

What do you enjoy most about writing original theatre? What is the biggest challenge?

Nicolle: I enjoy seeing ideas, characters and dynamics come alive on stage and seeing how what I have created affects an audience. I write to carry a message or an experience to the audience, to connect (in this case) to connect the audience to the ups and downs of Christmas with family. Only this time, they are traveling to a foreign country. The biggest challenge about writing original theatre is having it produced- being given an opportunity to develop a new play. I feel very fortunate that Mark & Chemainus Theatre festival have given me the opportunity to write three original plays. Wilde Holidays Shorts, Countryside Christmas and Cornwalls’ All-Inclusive Cancun Christmas.

Mark: I enjoy it when others are moved by something that does the same for me.  It’s a wonderful sense of connection – in the writing team, in the creative team and finally with the audience.  I enjoy it best when we laugh together. The biggest challenge is drilling down to specifics that do all these things.

Is there any person or practice that is particularly beneficial to your writing/directing process?

Nicolle: There are many people whom I have studied & worked with that have helped my writing process. I think it is very beneficial to approach writing using different processes and that is one thing that I have really appreciated about co-writing with Mark DuMez is that we are open to different writing processes. It was really neat for both of us ( at times in development) to say ok we are both going to go away and write this scene and then come together and talk about choices, what is strongest and build on each other’s ideas. Then, letting that writer take the next scene and trusting each other. I really value trying different processes when co-writing.

Mark: I like to take a walk to ruminate over ideas before a writing day or session – but then get down to just writing.  I find I have to throw something down on the page – usually to throw out or revise – but it gets things moving.   I agree co-writing creates energy and trust in the process (which at other times can feel quite isolated) and it’s been fun to write two shows with Nicolle.

Christmas at the Chemainus Theatre Festival is always a popular experience so make sure you get your tickets soon. Don’t forget to add on the Playbill Dining Room for the all-inclusive buffet dinner. You may not be able to travel to the tropics over the holidays but this will be a getaway to highlight your holiday season!